Most blockbuster sequels are made according to the credo "bigger, better, louder, faster" but few have managed to pull it off with as much exuberance as The Mummy Returns. Director Stephen Sommers hit pay-dirt with the original movie by playing down the horror aspects of his source material, letting rip with ILM's computer-animated effects work and giving his ensemble of actors plenty of tongue-in-cheek dialogue. So it should be a reassurance to fans of The Mummy that Sommers has simply packed his sequel with much more of the same.
With a heftier budget Sommers directs like a kid let loose in an eye-candy store - and we all get to share the sugar rush. Much of the time it works perfectly. The leaping soldier-mummies are back, but this time they prance down the streets of London, tussling with our heroes during a high-speed double decker bus chase. The carnivorous zombie-pygmies, meanwhile, are a welcome addition to the hall of comedy-horrors, squealing and gnashing their way through various extras like razor-toothed toddlers.
Some of it, however, doesn't work so well. The introduction of a jet-engined dirigible (piloted by Human Traffic's Shaun Parkes, no less) is a little too credulity-stretching and the big, bad Scorpion King looks a bit... well... naff. When you've got someone as famous as several-time WWF champ The Rock, you don't turn them into a pure CG monster, thereby replacing all that crowd-winning charisma with an unconvincing pixel-bot.
You do get the feeling that Sommers got carried away, and his script is more concerned with delivering set-pieces than providing a coherent plot. We get a confusion of hidden destinies, surprise tattoos and Ancient Egyptian plot devices - sorry, artifacts. But if you can accept the fact that The Mummy Returns is all corn and no brain, then you'll gladly leap across all those gaping plot chasms.
And you can't deny that it's great to see all the major players reunited for a second romp when so few sequels manage to pull that off. The Rock's cameo aside, everyone knows what's demanded of them and delivers accordingly. Vosloo sneers, Fraser dashes, Hannah snivels and Freddie Boath, as the O'Connell's eight-year-old son, stays on the right side of irritating. Rachel Weisz and Patricia Velasquez, meanwhile, cope well with their characters' transformation into lady-warriors and even deliver a great Crouching Tiger-mimicking face off.
Yes it's OTT, brainless and flawed. But who cares? Sometimes movies just need to be fun, and this one delivers.